Meet Riri Williams. She's a scientific genius, having enrolled in M.I.T. at the age of 15. She's so smart she was able to build her own Iron Man suit in her dorm room — and when the "Civil War II" storyline ends later this year, you'll be seeing her in that suit a lot.
As announced in Time Magazine on Wednesday (July 6), Riri Williams will become the new Iron Man for Marvel Comics, making her the latest in a very long line of POC and female characters taking over for the traditionally white Marvel superheroes.
However, while it's exciting to see the line-up become more diverse — over the past few years Marvel Comics has introduced an Afro-Latino Spider-Man, a Pakistani Ms. Marvel, a black Captain America, a female Thor, a black female reimagining of "Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur," and an Asian Hulk, to name just a few — it's also worth pointing out that these marginalized characters are often relegated to the sidelines when the "true" heroes return to their original names a few years later.
In fact, this isn't the first time a black character has taken on the mantle of "Iron Man" — James Rhodes, AKA War Machine, did it in the '80s while Tony was off dealing (well, not dealing, more like the opposite of that) with his alcoholism. Nor is it the first time a woman has been in an Iron Man suit, either — Pepper Potts did that when she got her own suit and saved the world as Rescue from 2009 to 2012.
In addition, while the characters on the page are becoming more diverse, the writers, artists, and other comic creators at mainstream publishers still look more or less the same. There are very few black female creators at Marvel, for example. and Riri was actually created by a white male team, Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato. While both are excellent, and Bendis in particular has a history of creating important, nuanced, marginalized characters — like Jessica Jones and Miles Morales, for starters — it would be great to see more marginalized creators behind the scenes to match the "All-New, All-Different" vibe.
To be fair, Marvel does appear to be trying their hand at elevating both new POC characters and creators, if their recent promotion of "Mosaic" is any indication; he's a brand new black antihero with his own solo title set to launch in October, written by two black male creators. But given that white male writers and artists still outnumber anyone else at both DC comics and Marvel, it's going to be a while before that changes. That is, unless these companies continue to go outside their regular white male base and deliberately seek out more POC and female talent.
Riri Williams seems like an awesome character from the little we've seen of her so far, and her inclusion is definitely a step in the right direction — but we have to remember, it's just a step. Those of us who are interested in diversity and inclusion in comics have still got a long way to go.